Christine’s kayak challenge; discovering the hidden wonders of Fiji

Christine Perry has recently returned from the adventure of a lifetime. As part of CUFA’s Kayak Fiji team, she fundraised an incredible total before kayaking over 70km around Fiji’s idyllic islands, visiting grassroots savings banks and Credit Unions and immersing herself in the vibrant Fijian culture. For Christine, the trip was undoubtedly life changing.

“This experience will be held close to my heart for the rest of my life. I was intrigued by the stories shared by all the groups of people whose paths we crossed and the wonderful family values that can often be overlooked in our environment.  If I had to describe Fiji in a few words it would be… colour: green, people: beautiful and atmosphere: surreal and captivating,” Christine says.

Knowing little about Fiji before she departed, Christine explains that she was open to anything and everything that the experience had to offer.

“I didn’t know much about Fiji before I left. I mostly knew that it was a popular holiday destination, being an Island in the South Pacific. I actually went on this adventure with an open mind, to take each experience as it unfolded.”

The first leg of the journey saw Christine and her fellow challengers paying visits to more established Credit Unions in Suva, Fiji’s capital. With the challengers representing Horizon Credit Union, Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank and Customer Owned Banking Association, the visits promoted the exchange of ideas between the Australian and Fijian Credit Union movements.

“I was excited for the different credit unions we met along our journey and for the accomplishments that they shared with us during our visits. They all share a similar passion and vision as the Australian credit unions,” Christine says.

“They focus on giving back to their members and being able to build stability and support when needed throughout their members lives. It was great to be able to share what Australian Credit Unions are able to offer and the visions going forward for all.”

Departing Suva, Christine and her fellow challengers kayaked over 70km, stopping along the way to explore remote villages and meet the local people.

“The kayaking presented its challenges, however it was extremely rewarding as the scenery was incredible and we visited many villages along our path, spending time with the local people,” Christine says.

“I was positively overwhelmed with the welcoming and supporting attitude of everyone. Chris and Adam, my fellow challengers, were wonderful companions. Luse and Ana, CUFA’s Fijian staff, were fantastic hosts and all the people of Fiji whose paths we crossed were extremely welcoming and accommodating…I found the Fijian family values were similar from the Credit Unions to the villages we visited. It would have been nice to have a little more time to get to know people more, as time flew past us.”

“Can I say Fiji time?,” Christine queries when asked about the skills she learned from the challenge that could be applied to work and life. She’s referring to the notoriously laid back nature of the Fijian people.

“Not in being late but in better time management to ensure that I am not so overwhelmed with workloads that stress is passed onto the team,” she clarifies. “Setting realistic time frames is important and I think that more listening is also a good skill that can always be improved on.”

For Christine, the highlight of the trip was learning from a different culture and experiencing a different way of life.

“The coolest thing on the trip was connecting with the people and environment. From the dolphin watching to a waterfall visit, to the village life, where the people and nature connect. It was amazing to see nature, such as a bee hive, within metres from our resting place. It was a very harmonised environment,” she says.

As for the fundraising, Christine says that while she was a little nervous at first, she soon realised how many people were willing to support her goal to raise money for CUFA’s projects.

“I was so excited to have been the recipient of this opportunity, however I must admit that when I started to think of the fundraising target I was daunted,” she says.

“I was amazed at where support came from, and there has been so much support.”


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